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Stethoscope

Can your current or past menstrual cycle offer clues about your longevity? A study published Oct. 3, 2020, in the medical trade journal The BMJ linked irregular or long menstrual cycles (defined as 40 days or more) throughout adolescence and adulthood to a higher risk of early death (before age 70), compared with that seen in women who had normal or short menstrual cycles.

The study authors, who used data from nearly 80,000 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study II, found that the association was stronger for deaths from heart and blood vessel disease and in women who smoked.

Women in the study were, on average, 38 years old and had no history of cardiovascular disease, cancer or diabetes when the study began. Researchers asked them to recall the regularity and length of their menstrual cycles at various times in their life. The researchers followed the women for 24 years, noting deaths from various causes over time.

The association of early death with irregular or long menstrual cycles persisted even after they corrected for other factors, such as lifestyle and family history.